Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Is... A Trail of Miracles through Unbelievable Circumstances (or the Malac-Bartak Story)

Since this is my last column for 2011 in this paper, I want to thank my faithful readers for staying with me yet another year. I have written about many “first settlers” to our county, going back to study the 1834, 1840 and 1850 census records to trace several of the brave people who hazarded the unknown to settle in the new and burgeoning county of Union. If you missed any of these stories and have any interest in them, you may go online to GaGenWebProject, click on Union County, and when the general index emerges, click on “Through Mountain Mists.” There you will find a complete listing by title of my columns since I began writing for “The Union Sentinel” in July, 2003. Can it be it has been over eight years I have followed this challenging and satisfying pursuit of telling the stories of our brave ancestors and true stories of this section of our beautiful world?

But today’s column will take a different turn. It is a true story, coming at a pivotal time in the year here at Christmastime. I recently received a most wonderful Christmas gift, a copy of Barry Forrest Malac’s book of remembrances entitled “Through the Mountains, Valleys and Gloom…But Never Alone.” Barry and Marian Bartak Malac are fairly recent newcomers as residents of Union County, coming in 1986 to begin their Union County home, and moving here to live in 1989 after Barry’s retirement. Mainly his story, but interspersed with how he met Marian in his native Czechoslovakia, and how their lives became intertwined as husband and wife, reads like a novel. The reviewer, writer Arlene M. Gray of “An Ordinary Life..." rightly states of Barry’s book: “The reader has no choice but not to put the book down until the end is reached.” And with her evaluation I heartily agree; with many Christmas preparation jobs calling for my time, I could not leave Barry’s book alone until I had finished the last chapter. His is a marvelous story of faith and adventure, trust and persistence, following God’s leadership and acting on opportunities, many through grave dangers and escaping Communism That is why I entitle this review of Barry Malac’s book, “Christmas Is...A Trail of Miracles through Unbelievable Circumstances.” I recommend to my readers that you find a copy of his book and read it. It will inspire you, uplift you and make you know that miracles still occur in the lives of people who sincerely seek to follow the Lord who came to earth at Christmastime.

Born in Vienna, Austria on December 12, 1923, the third child of the Rev. Gustav Josef Malac and Antonie Malacova Malac, the new baby lived in the home of his Methodist Episcopal minister father and mother. Later his father would minister in Czechoslovakia where he became pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church South in Bratislava, Slovakia on January 1, 1929, and then on to the area of Prague. Grave days lay ahead, as they would live through the perils of World War II, with Barry (his Americanized name) working at Stalag Erding in Bavaria to assist with keeping German warplanes repaired and in the air. Barry’s story of close encounters of the dangerous kind, his bout in the military, and his college years are one string of miracles after another. Then he saw a picture of the daughter of an American United Methodist minister sent to his country as Superintendent of Methodist Missions. Barry told his mother, when she tried to match him up with a young lady of her choosing, that he planned to marry the girl from America whose picture he saw on the Methodist brochure. And things came about that he was able to do just that.

But even after their wedding, held on Easter Saturday, April 16, 1949, circumstances were not easy for the young couple—she an American citizen in that Czech country with her parents, approved missionaries, and the young Czech who had ambitions of becoming a forester.

He first took steps to escape the strict confines of the communist regime and border patrols. His story is full of suspense, intrigue and danger. She was to follow and they were to meet in Munich, Germany. Timing and getting through tough check-points allow the reader to see aspects of escape and holding securely to dreams. The way Barry Malac gives God credit for opening up the way for both of them and getting them safely to America is a story worthy of any Christmas miracles we can imagine.

Even in America, life was not easy as Marian’s aunt in Texas took them in for a while. Then they decided to move east to Duke University in North Carolina for Barry to get his Master’s degree in Forestry. Then came his first permanent job in Savannah, Georgia as Barry was employed in management with the Union Bag and Paper Corporation. Giving just the barest facts, as I am doing here, of a lifetime of dreams and their fulfillment may not sound very exciting. But believe me, Barry’s narrative style, his ability to remember significant events and how these were turned to good (which he terms miracles) make their true story fascinating reading. His frontispiece uses this quotation from the noted Albert Einstein: “There are only two ways to live one’s life: one is to live as if everything is a miracle, and the other one is as if nothing is a miracle.” And what have Barry and Marian done throughout their lives together: They see and acknowledge the miracles that have occurred. They know to Whom to give credit, and the Spirit of Christmas is evident throughout their long and eventful lives. Thank you, Barry Malac, for telling your story for us to marvel at and admire.

And since I want to end this column with a Christmas wish for all of you faithful readers, I offer you my 2011 Christmas poem. I hope its lines inspire deep thought about the true meaning of Christmas.

Christmas Is…
Christmas is God with us,
Immanuel His name.
In the fullness of time
The Lord Jesus came,
Fulfillment of prophecy
From God’s plan for mankind,
To restore broken kinship
And bring peace of mind
To all who draw near
With faith deep in the heart.
This is the message
That Christmas imparts.

Christmas is Love Incarnate,
The Word made flesh;
A break through the darkness
From the sin that enmeshed
Mankind in bondage
For multitudinous years.
Angels declared the message:
“Rejoice! Have no fears,
For behold we bring you
This message of peace:
Christ is born in Bethlehem,
Now your bondage will cease!”

Think how our gratitude
Should swell up in praise:
Let us serve Christ the Lord
Throughout all of our days!
“Christmas is the day
That holds all time together.”*
Christmas is God-with-us!
No power that bond can sever!

-Ethelene Dyer Jones
Christmas, 2011

(*”Christmas is the day that holds all time together” is a quotation by Alexander Smith.)

c2011 by Ethelene
Dyer Jones; published December 22, 2011 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA.
Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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